How energy providers can support SMEs of all sizes

Triana Jarman

With energy often considered by a small business owner as just a commodity, we conducted a survey of our SME audience to discover how energy companies could best attract and secure the loyalty of all types and sizes of SMEs. We've collated the findings into a quick insight guide which uncovers the big ticket issues and messages an energy company should be using in their marketing campaigns.


In short, how could the UK’s energy providers engage their SME audience more effectively?


Size matters


Over 99% of businesses in the UK fall into the SME classification (250 employees or less). That’s a lot of small businesses reliant on energy suppliers to keep their kettles boiled, their internet connection live and their equipment humming.


Let’s start with the premise that one size does not fit all. Here’s a more granular (and EU official) definition of the SME market:


Micro: 1-10 employees, maximum annual turnover of €2 million

Small: 11-50 employees, maximum annual turnover of €10 million

Medium: 51-250 employees, maximum annual turnover of €50 million


It’s probably safe to assume that the needs of a micro business, for example a sole trader or a small partnership, are likely to be quite different to those employing 200 people. And when it comes to energy, we don’t just mean how much gas or electricity that business consumes.


There are so many variables, a host of different factors that keep any SME owner awake at night. By surveying the BusinessZone and UK Business Forums audience, we gathered insight into what those issues are right now, what factors were critical to them in their choice of energy provider and most importantly a pattern of how this was impacted by their organisational size.


Our survey says


If we told you that SMEs are motivated by price when it comes to their choice of energy provider, you’d quite rightly be thinking: “Tell me something I don’t know.” But our survey revealed it’s not quite as simple as that. There are in fact myriad of issues and factors affecting their choice, and the way an energy provider prioritises these messages by SME size in their marketing efforts is the key to success.


You can download our analysis on the findings, but here’s a quick preview of what what we found:


It’s all about size. Lump all SMEs into the same marketing bucket with a one size message fits all approach, such as price, and you can really alienate them. If you need convincing read this: ‘I am not an SME you patronising ***!’


The tipping point. The point at which SMEs become a lot more interested in evaluating their energy provider options correlates with their size and growth stage. Our survey revealed when this tipping point occurs.  

It’s all about green, isn’t it? Not surprisingly green and sustainability issues are important to SMEs but our survey revealed whether this would be a deciding factor based on their size.

Show me the money. Of course cost is critical, but marketing on the basis of cost comparisons is more likely to engage the micro and small SMEs. The medium sized businesses need something more.

What more looks like. We asked “Which issues and topics could an energy supplier provide insight and advice on that would help you run your business?” We cover the detail of their responses in the downloadable report, but they aren’t just cost-related, proving that energy providers have a variety of topics they can own to credibly attract and maintain the attention of SMEs.

Guess and lose. An easy way to lose the engagement battle is to guess what is relevant to SMEs. We’ve established in our SME Insight Report that they don’t like being lumped together as their needs vary by size. Our survey, and our active SME communities on BusinessZone and UKBusinessForums, provide valuable insight into what the real motivating factors are.


Get our survey insights to learn more about the results. You’ll discover what issues and topics an energy provider should be ‘owning’ in their marketing to SMEs, what messaging will motivate their target audience the most, and what factors positively and negatively affect SME brand loyalty.


Download your copy of our Energy Survey Report now.